November 1, 2016...
Illustration © 2016 A.M. Scott
October 1, 2016 ... Romantic Suspense Author Kylie Brant
What were you like at school?
I loved school—could have been a professional student! Although I took it seriously, I always made time for fun
Were you good at English?
Yes, English and History were my favorite subjects. Writing came easily to me, but it never occurred to me to consider it as a career until I was in my early thirties…already in my first career.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To continuously improve and not to be afraid to try new things. I’ve spent several years branching out with deeper more complex plots, tackling darker subject matter. Now I am experimenting with different structures for my plots, which is both challenging and engaging.
Which writers inspire you?
Writers that make me think; those that made me wish I’d written their book . A writer who can make me forget to analyse how they are doing what they are doing and just read for the sheer enjoyment of it. A few of my favorites are JD Robb, Tami Hoag, Linda Castillo, Anne Frasier, Lee Child, Robert Crais and Harlen Coben.
So, what have you written?
Romantic suspense has been my main sub-genre. I wrote 25 books for Silhouette Intimate Moments (now Harlequin Romantic Suspense); six dark romantic thrillers for Berkley; then I indie published six more dark romantic thrillers and Thomas and Mercer re-published three of those. Currently I’m writing my 38th book, a straight suspense for Thomas and Mercer. I’ve also done a couple novellas and took part in a 12 author murder mystery. I’m published in 29 countries and translated into 18 languages.
Where can we buy or see them? (* include American, European and any other relevant links. Free, free promotions or prices can be included).
What are you working on at the minute?
My work in progress is Pretty Girls Dancing, a straight suspense. We shopped it around about four years ago and recently Thomas and Mercer showed interest in it. I’m jacked—this is a book I’ve wanted to write! It’s told in five revolving viewpoints, a taut psychological thriller that follows the family members of a young woman who disappeared seven years earlier as they are drawn into the investigation of a newly-missing teen, and their struggle to keep dark, decade-old secrets hidden.
What draws you to this genre?
I’ve always been drawn to romantic suspense because I like to write the types of books and movies that I enjoy. Suspenseful thrillers with a happy ending…because every story is better with a HEA .
How much research do you do?
Since I write about subject matter I have no expertise in, my books are research intensive. And I love researching as much as I love writing! I’ve tapped CIA and FBI agents, a former Supreme Court clerk, forensic scientists, blood spatter experts, detectives, accident reconstructionist, cadaver dog handlers…you name it. I’ve also crawled through a few caves in the name of research….until I remembered that bats lived in caves . EEK!
Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
I took part in three multi-author continuities at Harlequin, where we were each writing connected books based on the series bible. That was challenging, as there were plot holes galore that we needed to plug. When the author of the book before mine decided to give my heroine epilepsy it cured me of accepting any more continuities .
Why did you do decide to collaborate and did that affect your sales?
Typically, readers like connected books. Personally I believe they prefer that their series come from the same author, but the multi-author continuities did tend to sell well. At least two of the three did. I did them for the exposure and the experience, but I prefer to write my own ideas.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Ah, there’s the question I was a voracious reader and one summer when my kids were 12, 11, 6, 4 and 4 I figured I was going to have all sorts of time on my hands, so I gave in to the urge to write my first book.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I think the more we read the more we think we have a story in us. At least that’s how it was for me. Unfortunately, in my first book I made all the classic beginner mistakes. It did end up getting published, though, although my second book was bought first.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Until a couple years ago I taught elementary special education full time and wrote weekends and summers. Now I’m writing full-time and loving my new schedule! It’s much less disjointed to be able to write every day.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I usually exercise the first couple hours of the morning, get cleaned up and then sit down to write. My goal is ten pages a day, so whenever I hit that I move on to other aspects of the publishing biz.
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I write as my schedule allows. It seems like my days are fuller, even though I’m no longer teaching. I need to say no more . I strive for 50 pages a week, but that doesn’t always happen.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
Mine is the laziest way imaginable—I write stretched out on a chaise lounge with a laptop on my lap and a Diet Coke by my side!
Where do your ideas come from?
They just appear. Usually a character first, or an idea for an event. And then I tug on those strings to fill in the rest of the plot. My ideas usually percolate for months before they flesh out enough for me to plot.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I’m an organic writer. I call it writing in the mist. I know where all the signposts are, although they are fuzzy and subject to change. I know where I’m going and some of the turning points that will get me there. But I like to be surprised—unexpected twists are what keep me writing. Even if I were able to outline, I’d get bored if I knew exactly where the story was going to go.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
The discipline it takes to sit down and write. It’s easy to fill the days…and I’m a master procrastinator. You know what they say—hard work pays off in the long run, but procrastination pays off now!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
As long as they give me . Seriously, I need deadlines to produce. Indie writing is challenging for me because I’m not particularly motivated by self-imposed deadlines.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Oh, of course I do. I find that exercise helps me get through it. I like to get up and go outside and walk while I’m wrestling through what comes next, or untangling a plot knot. If that doesn’t work, I do a stream of consciousness thing where I write down all the possibilities that could come next.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
My current wip, PRETTY GIRLS DANCING, isn’t part of a series, but the one after that will be. DEEP AS THE DEAD will be the ninth in the Mindhunters series.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
There are pros and cons, with the biggest advantage being author branding, recognition of the series and gaining readers. We all like connected books. It gives us a chance to return to a world we previously enjoyed and to re-visit favorite characters. It offers marketing possibilities for the author, such as first book perma-free, boxed sets, anthologies, etc. The one disadvantage, at least for me, is boredom L. After three books I tend to want to write something different. So after the first six books in The Mindhunters I did take a break before writing the next two.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
E-books are instant gratification and convenient. I prefer to read print, either hard-back or paperback. I don’t like to spend my entire day wired, and I’ll never not love the feel of turning the pages in a real book!
What book/s are you reading at present?
Harlen Coben’s HOME and Megan Abbott’s YOU WILL KNOW ME.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I always get someone to edit my books. As an author I think we get ‘error blind’…we know what the words should say and speed right over the mistakes. I also hire a developmental editor I’ve worked with for years and trust like no other. She points out ways to make the book stronger, plot wise. And she’s always always right .
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Ha! You’re talking to the queen of procrastinators, remember? Like I’d ever have an extra month to do that. No, I dive right in to edits. Then I start another book.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Advantages are being in charge of every step of the process. Disadvantages are being in charge of every step of the process . It can be time-consuming. I can certainly choose plots without worrying whether they will ‘fit’ with what a house is looking for. I enjoy choosing my own covers. I’m not particularly good at writing back cover copy, so I wish I had someone do that for me. And as I mentioned before, I am much better at adhering to deadlines determined with a house than I am those I set myself. So it’s a mixed bag for me. Right now I’m a hybrid and that is suiting me well at the moment.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I’ve used one once and would probably do so again. I’d have to set up some sort of analytics to better determine the actual results I’m getting. And they have to be able to do something for me that I can’t do myself.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
They both serve a purpose, because a thoughtfully written bad review can help me grow as a writer. I do consider the merits of any negatives mentioned. Most I don’t agree with but some I do. I have a thick enough skin that I can take the bad with the good. No author should ever live in an echo chamber of positivity about their work. That doesn’t prepare us for reality, nor does it help us grow. That said, the worst review I ever got said, “Her heroines are all bitches and her heroes are all a$$holes.” Ah, yes . There’s a reviewer who really ‘gets’ me. I get a lot of mileage out of that one when we’re sitting around comparing who got the worst review!
Which social network worked best for you?
Love Facebook and I’m really active there. Hate Twitter because it feels like a voice in the darkness with no interaction and feedback. So I gravitate to FB. Although boosting posts is a waste of money, learning to place good FB ads have helped sales, IMO.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Think about engagement not so much in how many people the posts reach, but in how many of the readers are commenting. It’s a two-way street…they want to feel like there is a relationship between the author and reader so most of our time needs to be spent on sharing tidbits from our daily lives, rather than direct marketing.
Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
There are so many things out of our control. Maybe a best-selling author came out with a similar plot recently. Perhaps your plot line just happened in real life (yes that happened to me!) and it is a sensitive subject. Perhaps it’s discoverability. We do the best we can but we can’t plan for every eventuality.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
All the research I’m seeing/hearing say they don’t help sell books. But they’re fun and I think your fans would enjoy them. I don’t spend time on them but if you do, keep them short (no more than 30 seconds) for maximum engagement.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Sore subject with me . People far more savvy than I am still say yes. It helps entice readers to sign up for newsletters, to try the rest of the series, etc. I still have a problem with authors leading the race to the bottom. We have been complicit in getting them to expect cheap and free and grouse at a $4.99 price point. I do think readers have caught on the .99 price point and are starting to get the feeling that they aren’t good books. In the end, we have to do what makes sense for our own careers. Try things. Learn from them and learn from others. There are no hard and fast rules.
Did you format your own book?
I’ve always had my son do that and the uploading. I just purchased Vellum and am anxious to format and upload by myself for the first time. So far it looks super easy.
In what formats is your book available?
Print, e-book, audio.
How do you relax?
I like to exercise. Believe it or not, that relaxes me. And I volunteer at school doing reading interventions with kids with reading problems. Other than that, spending time with family and friends are my favorites.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Still doing what I’m doing, albeit more successfully!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Not to compare myself to other writers. That’s hard advice to take, but it can really stifle creativity. No one takes the same track as another author and it’s a waste of time to worry about things out of your control.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Finish the damn book! I’m always amazed at people who have a handful or more of uncompleted manuscripts. True growth is going to occur when you slog all the way through a book. You can’t learn if you can only keep going while the idea is fresh and new.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile
Book Links: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kylie+brant
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I enjoy reading stories and watching movies with a high level of adventure/suspense so I write what I like to read and watch. There are some genres I can’t read for that reason; nothing •happens•.
How long have you been writing?
I started in 1990 and was bought two years later.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Editors have noted that I have a unique voice; they’ve called me a gritty writer and dark and twisted . In my chosen sub-genres I guess those are good things!
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
The least useful was the old adage ‘write what you know’. Research changes everything; write what you can research well. When I began writing I left workshops convinced I was doing things wrong. I like to make sure that aspiring authors realize that there are different writing processes and no one correct way. It’s all about discovering which fits the individual.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
Oh, this is an embarrassing story . When I began writing, I didn’t belong to any writing groups and didn’t know anyone who was writing. It was pre-Internet so writing info wasn’t easy to come by. When I got finished writing my first book, I just opened up the cover of one of the Silhouette Intimate Moments books to look for the address, LOL. I called for the number and got a very snotty receptionist who informed me that they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. With her (caustic!) guidance I learned how to write a query letter and received an invite to submit.
While I knew the process wouldn’t be immediate, I figured, a week there and back and a month to read it . It actually took 4 months to hear back (which I later learned is lightning like speed for an unsolicited manuscript.) I received a two-page rejection letter, telling me what they liked and what needed to be improved and was invited to re-submit. So I did that and sent it back in. Having wised up a bit, I started book 2 while I waited. That was sent in by the time I got a second rejection letter on book 1, and an invitation to revise it yet again, which I did.
Then came ‘the call.’ I was actually home in bed with laryngitis when it came. An assistant editor called, saying she’d had to track me down via information because I had neglected to include contact information. Go figure . She was all excited because she’d found me in the slush pile and the senior editor was reading my submission as we spoke. I thought she said ‘flush pile’ and that didn’t sound good!
She hung up after assuring me the senior editor would be calling soon. After she hung up I started to think that maybe I had dreamed the whole thing. Was it a Vicks Vapor Rub induced hallucination? There was nothing to be done but to wait. And sure enough, the senior editor called a couple hours later and said she wanted to buy the book! She asked if I had any others and I told her the first one was in their offices. It took a few months to find it and yes, there was yet another round of revisions to be done. But I can officially say I sold my first book—it just underwent major surgery several times!
Have you written any other books that are not published?
No, every completed book I have has been published.
Do you write Alone or in public?
When I started writing it was with five kids and another dozen in the next room. I learned to write in the midst of chaos. Now that the kids are gone, I’m used to silence. Even my husband breathing across the room annoys me when I am trying to write . The closer to deadline I am, the more silence I need. I once went to a motel to finish a book. My husband ‘visited’ twice and called me a half a dozen times. Guess he just didn’t get it!
Music or silence?
Music is distracting for me—I always find myself concentration on that rather than my words.
What is your favorite part of the book?
The last sixty pages and THE END.
What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
You wouldn’t believe how many times I have been referred to as Kyle Brant. A fan once argued with me in person that I couldn’t possibly be a woman because no female could write like I do. Not sure that’s a compliment…!
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
Well, I can do the YMCA with my legs. It may not qualify as a talent, but it’s definitely unique .
What do you love most about the writing process?
The creativity. It’s truly the only creative thing I do. I love words and I love constructing them into unique stories.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
Mia Deleon in my book 11. After years of abuse by the sexual sadist known only as The Collector, she managed to escape and evade him for years while she healed emotionally and physically. And in the end she found the strength to track him down (with the help of security expert Jude Bishop) to free his other captives. I love creating damaged characters that rise above their circumstances and liberate themselves.
Have you thought about joining with another author to write a book?
I doubt it. I’m much too much of a control freak!
Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
I love RWA for the networking and catching up with old friends. But nothing beats NINC for industry and marketing related information.
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
The love scenes always take me the longest. They have to be uniquely emotional for the characters involved. They can take me days to write.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I know many that are introverts but I think most of us are a mixture. I wouldn’t consider myself an introvert, but I do need my solitude interspersed with social time.
Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
That’s what editors are for .
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
The complexity of my plots. Writing mainstream (rather than category) has allowed me to delve more deeply into the suspense plot so I can spend more time there rather than a 50/50 on the relationship.
Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?
Not books, per se but definitely plot ideas. Sometimes they just don’t gel at first and I keep nuggets tucked away until they spring forth at a later point, more fully developed.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
The characters. No matter how clever the plot, if I don’t care if the characters get hit by a bus, the book is a loss for me. I’m not a fan of the popular novels where there are no characters to root for.
Is the writing life glamorous?
Certainly it has its glamorous moments. Book signings, fancy receptions, cocktail parties…but that is mostly at conference. There’s nothing to glamorous about sitting on my chaise dressed in yoga pants with a laptop on my lap .
Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?
Love traveling to exotic locations! Just made reservations for Costa Rica this winter. Can’t wait!
Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
I don’t know any author who claims to do that!
Are you a member of any writing committees; if yes, define your role?
I belong to RWA, Kiss of Death, NINC, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. I’ve been the Pan Liaison for KOD and in charge of the Q and A for a number of years.
Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?
Sure, everyone gets discouraged sometimes. The thing that always stopped me was the knowledge that I’d have to stop reading. There was no way I could enjoy stories and not be creating my own.
What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?
Keep with it. Try to analyze what’s going wrong. If you have someone you trust, have them look at the story for you. There’s a reason things aren’t flowing…it means something is wrong. Once you figure out what it is you can fix it.
How did it feel when your first book got published?
It’s a euphoric feeling, one that can never be re-captured. There’s nothing like seeing your book on a shelf for the first time.
Are you friends with other writers?
The friendships I’ve made in the writing community are irreplaceable. It’s such a special privilege to get together and talk writing with people who get it.
Do you think you still have a story to tell to the readers?
I always have three or four books working through my head at any given time. Early in my career I used to think I’d run out of ideas. Now I know that’s impossible.
What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?
I have a very good friend who just did. I don’t think I could, but no one knows what circumstances the future holds for them. I just don’t know what I’d do with all these story people who have taken up residence in my head if I didn’t give them their own stories!
Do you see the ‘writing germs’ in any of your family members?
Definitely. One of my sons is an attorney and another delivers creative content in his marketing job. He’s a marvelous writer…very smart.
Have you received any awards for your literary works?
I’ve received three Rita nominations and five RT nominations. I was awarded the Romatic Times Career Achievement Award and have won the overall Daphne du Maurier award twice.
Did you always know that you were destined for literary greatness, or you, as they say, “stumbled” upon it?
I definitely stumbled on it. I was all set to get my EdD in education but it occurred to me that my young family was not ready for that kind of sacrifice. Instead I decided to write a book, and went down a very different path.
Are you friends with any of your contemporaries? If yes, do you discuss your current projects with each other?
Yes, of course. I have two writing buddies that I used to get together with regularly to do brainstorming. In one weekend we’d brainstorm a book from an idea each of us had.
Did you have a lot of differences with your editors in the beginning while you were still becoming used to getting your work edited?
Not really. I’ve never been a prima donna about my work. I’m the most ruthless editor I’ve ever had! I’ve always figured that the editors know the industry far better than I do, so I listen carefully to their input. That said, if I feel strongly about not making a change, I don’t make it. After all, it’s my name on the cover. I’ve never had an editor that was difficult to work with. Editors love books…they are some of my favorite people!
Do you wish your first novel hadn’t been the first to introduce you to the world?
Interesting question! My first book was actually the second published, and yes, I wince when I think about all the mistakes I made in it. But the second book was much stronger and it was actually the one who came first.
Being an author, how susceptible are you to getting recognized on the street?
LOL, not at all. You can’t believe how many people I meet who try to tell me about a book they enjoyed who can’t even name the author!
Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?
In my Circle of Evil trilogy, I had a great time giving each of my five kids a cameo in one of the books. They were less than impressed .
What are your views on modern erotica? Have they completely dehumanized the idea, or is it better?
It’s really not my cup of tea. I’m not denigrating it; it just doesn’t speak to me on any level.
Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?
My literary favorites are To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye. Each as an unforgettable character and a universal truth that transcends the ages.